When is the right time of the year to prune trees and other plants?


Quick Answer

Prune early-spring blooming plants and trees in late spring after they finish blooming. Summer-bloomers should be pruned in winter or early spring before the plant begins producing new growth, while trees and shrubs that don't have flowers can be pruned any time.

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Full Answer

Although removing dead, diseased or damaged branches and limbs can be done at any time during the year, timing other types of pruning correctly is essential to avoid inadvertently pruning buds or decreasing the plant's blooming potential. Plants such as forsythia, lilac, apricot trees, magnolia, flowering cherry trees, azalea and chokecherry form buds and flowers on branches that were formed during the previous year. Prune these types of trees and plants right after they have finished blooming. Most summer-blooming plants, including butterfly bushes, shrub roses, late-blooming spirea and snowball hydrangea, create buds and flowers on new growth that forms during the current growing season, so these plants should be pruned during the dormant season before any new growth emerges.

Trees and shrubs grown for their foliage can be pruned anytime, although most gardeners typically prune them in spring before the plants begin growing again. These plants include barberry, dogwood, smokebush and burning bush. Plants used for shaped hedges, such as privet or boxwood, should be sheared regularly during the early growing season to maintain the hedge's shape.

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